The Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture has heard that there is just six months of Irish peat left in the country, with devastating consequences for the horticulture industry.
Peat is needed to grow mushrooms and vegetables, with Irish mushroom growers supplying 33% of the UK market.
The announcement by Bord na Móna that peat harvesting would be stopped has thrown the industry into panic, with representatives stating that there were currently no alternatives to peat.
The Kildare Growers Group told the committee that peat was already being imported from Scotland and had arrived in Dublin this week.
The group acknowledged the concerns around peat harvesting and climate change, but pointed out that just 1.5% of the current harvesting area is needed to supply growers.
Senator Victor Boyhan called for a gradual phasing out of peat used in horticulture and called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to commission Teagasc to conduct research trials into alternatives for peat.
Principal officer in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Brian Lucas represented the Government and came under intense fire from a number of political parties.
Lucas told the committee that a working group was being formed and Dr Munoo Prasad had been appointed to head it.
Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Matt Carthy said that there was a “big fear that the working group is a façade”.
But this was rejected by Lucas, who said that he believed the working group would get under way quickly and that Dr Prasad had been appointed following a public announcement for the job role in national newspapers over a two-month period.
However, there was still widespread concern, with Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice stating he had concerns that the Department of Housing was picking up the pieces after the issue had been kicked down the line by the Department of Environment.
Fitzmaurice also pointed out that it was of vital importance that a solution and clarity were found, not just for the horticulture sector but also for the turf-cutting season, which was due to commence in May.